In official testimony before Congress in December 1912, just three months before his death, J.P. Morgan stated quite plainly: "[Credit] is not the money itself. Money is gold, and nothing else." Of course, this testimony came only 253 days before H.R. 7837, better known as the Federal Reserve Act, was introduced on the floor of Congress. The Federal Reserve Act went on to become law and pave the way for the perpetual fraud of fiat currency which underpins our modern financial system. And if unbacked paper currency isn't bad enough, we award dictatorial control of the money supply to a tiny handful of people, and then simply trust them to be good guys. Owning gold is the same as voting against this system, turning your paper currency into something that they cannot inflate or conjure out of thin air. Yet there's one problem.
Starting at 1147ET, Rand Paul began his James-Joycean discussion on US-based Drone strikes, six hours later (and with some minor aid from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)), he is still going. Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you were willing to talk about it for over six hours? From Cruz's note that today is the 177th anniversary of the fall of (or stand at) the Alamo to Paul's rhetorical (we think) question to the President: "Are you going to just drop a hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?" We suspect the night is yet young as the snowquester continues.
Despite the improvements in equity markets, Credit Suisse's global risk appetite indices are flashing warning signals. Their equity risk model points to weakness (most notably - Emerging Market underperformance relative to Developed Markets) and their credit risk appetite model maintains its 'sell' signal (which is what we are seeing in the broad credit markets). Finally, their bond risk model suggests a confirming signal getting long US duration.
Rampant malinvestment is creating scarcity of capital, energy & justice. All the sordid and spellbinding rackets working their hoodoo on the financial scene have obscured a whole other dimension of the fiasco that America finds itself in, namely the way we have arranged the logistics of everyday life on our landscape: the tragedy of suburbia. I call it a tragedy because it represents a sequence of extremely unfortunate choices made by our society over several generations, and history will not forgive the excuses we make for ourselves, nor will it shed a tear for the tribulations we will induce for ourselves by living this way. Politically, all this mischief has manifested as a campaign to sustain the unsustainable, to keep all the rackets running at all costs, including most particularly the suburban way of life. It is unlikely that we will succeed at that - though it does account for the desperation running through the national zeitgeist these days.
For those who, like Time magazine and its exhaustive treatise on soaring healthcare costs, are shocked and confused how it is possible that prices for some of the most rudimentary staples, among them basic medical care and college tuition, have exploded we have the answer. In fact, we had the answer in August 2012, when we showed our "Chart Of The Day: From Pervasive Cheap Credit To Hyperinflation." As the title, and chart, both imply, the simple reason why college tuition is up 1200% in 35 years, while healthcare fees have soared by a neat 600% or double the official cumulative inflation, is two words: "cheap credit."That is also the reason why the BLS and the Fed can get away with alleging inflation is sub-2%: because the actual cost for any of these soaring in price services is never actually incurred currently, but is deferred with the only actual outlay being the cash interest, which as everyone knows is now at the ZIRP boundary thanks to 4+ years of ZIRP and three decades of the "great moderation." Which is why we are confident it will come as no surprise to anyone, especially not those who have no choice but to follow the herd and pay exorbitant amounts for a generic higher education that has negligible utility at best in the New "Okun's law is broken" Normal, that tuition at public colleges jumped by a record amount in the past year!
The passing away of president Chávez has important implications ranging from the political spectrum to the economical spectrum. These implications will be crucial in assessments of the future of the country. Stratfor's Karen Hooper provides a succinct summary of the short-term (who will be the interim president until new elections take place? When will the elections take place, and what is the most likely result of the election), medium-to-long-term (Uncertainty about future economic management creates an additional downward bias in macroeconomic performance in a 1–2 year horizon), and Citi, despite the uncertainty-removing finality of Chavez' death, maintain an underweight as while neither political unrest nor a near-term default are likely, markets are also not pricing in much risk of either.
The world is rapidly running out of clean water. Some of the largest lakes and rivers on the globe are being depleted at a very frightening pace, and many of the most important underground aquifers that we depend on to irrigate our crops will soon be gone. At this point, approximately 40 percent of the entire population of the planet has little or no access to clean water, and it is being projected that by 2025 two-thirds of humanity will live in "water-stressed" areas. But most Americans are not too concerned about all of this because they assume that North America has more fresh water than anyone else does. And actually they would be right about that, but the truth is that even North America is rapidly running out of water and it is going to change all of our lives.
It has been several weeks since the name Monte Paschi, likely the most bailed out Italian bank in history, not to mention the oldest bank in the world, graced these pages: with the Italian elections now over and BMPS' political utility as leverage against Italy's Democratic Party finished, we expected that the next time we would read, and write, about it would be the next time it would need a bailout (its fourth in the past four years) sometime in the next 3 to 6 months. Sadly, Monte Paschi is squarely back on the front page following news moments ago that David Rossi, the head of communications at the bank, committed suicide by jumping off the building.
The 15% run since mid-November (or 60% annualized return) in the S&P 500 is attributed to the optics of tail-risk reduction and a renewed flood of central bank liquidity. However, as UBS notes, downside risks appear to be rising, with volatility increasing, investor sentiment readings starting to wane, and flows into equity funds turning negative. They believe, confirmed by the following five (*well seven) charts, that fundamentals remain relatively weak. On the 'top-down' macro-economic front, their US growth surprise index has rolled over, and consensus GDP expectations are down. On the 'bottom-up' earnings front, S&P 500 companies (ex-Financials) beat by 4.5% in 4Q but this followed a 6.1% downward revision coming into earnings season. Moreover, guidance has been weak, and revision trends remain negative. The consumer is suffering from near-term pressure, and recently, a number of companies have signaled near-term consumer softness attributed to higher tax rates, delayed refunds, and rising gas prices which perhaps explains why it has been 42 weeks without net positive EPS revisions.
Forbes has recently released its latest rich list, so now would be a good time to look at the world’s billionaires who have benefited most from the US oil industry.
GBPUSD (Cable) just cracked back below 1.50 and is trading at its lowest since July 2010 as The FT reports that it appears George Osborne (British Chancellor) is paving the way for Mark Carney (Bank of England governor) to follow the so-called 'Merkel-Draghi wager' that Europe is dangerously betting on. Instead of following business secretary Vince Cable's proposal of a new program of spending on schools, roads and housing – funded by extra borrowing - Osborne will use his Budget on March 20 to reinforce his message of “fiscal conservatism and monetary activism” by clarifying how the government intends to use monetary policy to get the economy growing again. Treasury officials are discussing proposals to change the remit of the bank - which could include giving the monetary policy committee greater time to bring inflation back to the 2 per cent target, giving the BoE a Federal Reserve-style dual mandate to target both employment and inflation, and even targeting cash spending in the economy rather than inflation. It would appear our short Cable trade continues to do well as Carney's arrival heralds more aggression in the global currency wars.
The people of Spain are prisoners of an economic adjustment that looks like something dreamed up by Torquemada. A lot of the recent compensation decline had to do with public sector workers (who export nothing) and not private sector ones. Is this a sustainable way to regain competitiveness? Torquemada the Inquisitor would be impressed with the pain that Spain is inflicting on itself. The bad news for Spanish labor markets isn’t over: most measures of Spanish competitiveness show that only half the gap has been closed vs Germany. I don’t see how this can be sustained indefinitely, even with the rally in Spanish sovereign and bank spreads, and with looser fiscal policy sanctioned by the EU. Without a true fiscal transfer union in Europe, caveat emptor in its Periphery, unless prices for stocks, bank loans and real estate are sufficiently cheap.
Another day, another highest ever close for the Dow. However, away from the silliness of that index, the S&P scraped a small gain and the Nasdaq a small loss as volume and the day's range was its lowest in two weeks. Treasuries were weak, adding around 3-4bps on the day (10Y 1.94%), now up 10bps on the week - catching up to equities. The S&P was unable to get away from its VWAP today and churned as HYG (high-yield credit) closed red and VXX (vol) closed green in the face of equity's positive drift. Silver jumped 1.25% on the day (and Gold about half that) back over $29 in the face of USD strength (driven mostly by JPY weakness). It seemed today was a catch-up day for the rest of risk-assets as arbs dragged bonds and FX carry markets up towards equities. Spot VIX hardly moved from its 13.5% opening as it is quite clear protection of gains as opposed to adding is the name of the game here for now.
While it is widely assumed that the too-big-to-fail banks in the US (and elsewhere) are beyond the criminal justice system - based on simple empirical fact - when the Attorney General of the United States openly admits to the fact that he is "concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them," since, "it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy," one has to stare open-mouthed at the state of our union. It appears, just as the proletariat assumed, that too-big-to-fail banks are indeed too-big-to-jail.